Wednesday, October 8, 2008


JUST PUT IT IN HIS BOW- HE’LL EAT IT. The only mainstream media reporter in Hawai`i trying to make sense out of the nonsensical, rules-are-for-suckers Hawai`i Elections Bureau- the Honolulu Advertiser’s Derrick DePledge- is at it again, this time trying to divine just why so few people chose to use the electronic voting machines known as DREs in September’s primaries

And again he turned to elections observer Bart Dame in the attempt..

But in doing so he just might have exposed why the oft-criticized elections chief Kevin Cronin chose to sign off on a $41 million HartIntercivic contract to provide voting equipment instead of the competing ES&S bid which would have cost less than half that.

In his blog DePledge says that:

Election observers looking at the performance of the state’s new voting machines given the legal challenge to the contract caught an interesting pattern after the September primary.

Voters overwhelmingly opted for paper ballots fed through eScan optical-scanners over the electronic eSlate machines.

On primary day, when voters could choose between the two machines at precincts, only 7.5 percent picked the electronic machines.

Just 14.4 percent voted on the electronic machines during both early voting and primary day a figure one observer — Democratic activist Bart Dame — argues is inflated because voters were only given the choice of electronic machines at three early voting locations on O’ahu.

But it took a comment on the post to give some insight into the statistics. ”Poll Worker” wrote

As a poll worker during the September Primary I am a firsthand witness to what actually took place. We had only one electronic machine assigned to our polling place. It generally took 4 times as long for people using the electronic machine than doing a paper ballot. In fact, more than half of those who initially wanted to use the electronic machine changed their minds because they didn’t want to wait around. The time it took each person to vote using the electronic machine made it pointless to offer voters the electronic option because we knew they would only change their minds after waiting 5-10 minutes

Dame then went further in explaining what happened on the ground

An optical scan machine can handle many more voters than the electronic machine. Voters are given a paper ballot and sent to a canvas voting booth to mark it with a pen. To handle more voters, you just need to provide more canvas voting booths and pens. Regardless of how long it takes for a voter to decide how to mark their ballot, other voters can continue to receive and mark their ballots and flow around them. At the end, the voter waits in a short line to insert their ballot into the optical scan machine. The actual contact of voter with the machine should be about 20-30 seconds per voter....

Voters using the DREs (”electronic voting machines”) each spent several minutes in contact with the machine. To avoid lines, we would need an additional DRE for each waiting voter (as compared to an additional pen for optical scan voters). In locales where they use all DRE voting machines, the lines snake out the door and the waits can be for hours.

The problem is not unique to Hawai`i or this year’s election. Those who followed the theft of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio know that the exclusive use of DREs there, especially in minority and Democratic leaning precincts, caused stupendously long lines that snaked around city blocks, causing many to turn around and go home.

Anyone who has been involved in elections has figured out that there are dozens of reasons why the DREs are far inferior to plain old paper ballots counted via an “optical scan” machine the way SAT tests have been, for the most part, reliably given and scored for 50 years.

But somehow we’ve ended up with a new Chief Elections Officer who was not only not from the islands and therefore is not familiar with people’s voting habits- something any voting administrator will tell you is of utmost importance- but someone who had no experience administrating elections whatsoever

“King” Kevin Cronin- the self proclaimed “de facto” Elections Chief and Wisconsin import- came in earlier this year and apparently decided that DREs were not just to be used for those who needed them due to disability- as the law requires- but for every voter

Perhaps that’s because he’s of a generation that is many times dazzled by computer age gizmos but has no knowledge of how they work or how and when to use them- or, more importantly, how they don’t work and how and when not to use them.

And so rather than provide DREs on special request or for those who really need them and process the rest with easy to use and verifiable, paper ballots he decided to fall for pitch for the stuff with all the bells and whistles... and none of the reliability and simplicity voters clamor for

And, although he reportedly denies favoring one method over the other, it’s apparent from their sole use in most O`ahu early voting locations that rather than providing a single DRE at each location along with paper ballots, he’d prefer to spread them far and wide and force voters to use them whether they want to use them or not.

All the horrors of proprietary codes, lack of verifiable results and other negatives of the DREs aside, just the cost of using them is something that would raise even a simpleton’s eyebrows.

The numbers are apparently there for Cronin’s Elections Bureau to do a real analysis of what the cost is to provide for each vote being cast for both the DREs and the optically scanned paper ballots.

But a quick back of the envelope calculation shows that any comparison between the time-consuming, hassle-ridden, costly DREs and the simplicity, speed and low cost of a pen, some printed paper and a single simple scanning counting machine, makes it not just no contest but could even mean thousands of times the cost for per vote for those who use DREs.

That would explain why one bid was for twice the other, And it would explain why the administrative hearings officer threw out the bid and chastised Cronin whose blinding by science apparently caused him to pick the new expensive model instead of the old reliable one.

Just a little more grist for the bone mill in the labyrinth of the Minotaur.

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